MONTGMERY, Ala. - The new year brings with it some new laws, including a key provision of Alabama's tough new immigration law and a change in the type of expert testimony that can be presented in criminal and civil cases.
Among the 13 new laws that took effect in Alabama Sunday is a major provision of Alabama's immigration law.
That section requires employers to use a federal system known as E-Verify to determine if new employees are in the country legally. All employers have to use E-Verify after April 1, but employers who do business with any government agency have to use the system beginning Jan. 1.
Rosemary Elebash, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said many companies do business with government agencies, even if it's something small like catering a luncheon for a state college.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said E-Verify is his favorite part of the immigration law because it provides employers a way to make sure employees are legal.
Many critics of the Alabama law have complained that enforcing laws is a federal, not a state duty.
The Senate sponsor of the immigration law, Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, agrees that the E-Verify provisions are a key part of the bill.
"Any part that deals with employers hiring illegal aliens is an important part. We should do the best we can to make sure that people working in Alabama are legally present," Beason said.
Beason said "E-Verify" is a tool that gives people the ability to check the legal status of an employee and "I believe they should be doing so."
The "E-Verify" section is one of the few parts of the immigration law that has not been challenged in count. Some parts of the far-reaching law have been at least temporarily put on hold by federal judges.
while other parts have been given judicial approval.
The Alabama Department of Homeland Security is offering to help businesses with 25 or fewer employees comply with the "E-Verify" provisions of the law.
The law requires the department to make available to small businesses help in using E-Verify.
"The employer agent service that we are providing is designed to help our small businesses comply with the new immigration law. Our department has provided the tools that small businesses may find useful in helping them comply," said Director Spencer Collier.
Another new law which takes effect puts restrictions on who can testify as an expert witness. The law limits what critics called "junk science" theories of how or why a crime occurred.
The law requires Alabama courts to adopt federal standards in deciding who can testify as an expert witness and what evidence can be presented. The sponsor of the bill in the Senate, Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, said the law means that the standards for expert testimony will be the same in state and federal court.
The law says that expert testimony is only admissible in court if it is based on sufficient facts or data.
Another law that passed the Legislature in 2011 prohibits elective abortions at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy. That part of the law has already taken effect, but it adds new reporting requirements for abortion providers because of the new restrictions. Those reporting requirements take effect Sunday.